Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Handwriting on Your Kindle Fire

I like to travel light -- at least when it comes to electronic gear, books, and notebooks. So, my Kindle Fire HD multitasks as a portable library, tablet computer, and note-taking device. I don't have a separate keyboard, and don't much care for trying to type using the onscreen keyboard. I was looking for a way to do a bit of journaling while on the road, or just keep up with my morning pages.

Having heard a bit about handwriting apps, I went on a quest to see what was available for Kindle Fire, and experiment with how a writing app could work for me. I downloaded and installed the free versions of four different apps: Papyrus, LectureNotes, 7 Notes, and Handrite.

To start with, you do need a stylus to work effectively with a handwriting application. I went with the Amazon "Executive Stylus for Touchscreen Devices," which is inexpensive and has a pen-style clip to hold it in place in your purse or pocket. I have to say I'm a total stylus convert and now use it all the time for "pushing buttons" on my Kindle.

Each of the different hand note-writing apps has pluses and minuses, and which one you prefer will depend on what you plan to use it for. For me, I settled on Papyrus for the following reasons:
  • My user experience was the closest to writing on a piece of paper: I could write normally with my stylus and the resulting script looked like my own messy scrawl
  • Ease of use -- it's like paper, nothing to figure out (some apps use an insertion window, which I did not take to)
  • Plenty of options in the free version (e.g. "paper" can be ruled, grid, or blank; "pen" color and line width can be changed)
  • You can draw as well as write (not possible with all of the alternative apps)
  • You can export notes as a pdf, png, or jpeg file to any other appropriate app on your Kindle (I save to Evernote, so I can access my notes from any of my devices)
All of these features are available in the free version. Paid upgrades to Papyrus are available for additional tools, the ability to import pdfs for annotating, and/or cloud back-up. I haven't felt the need for any of these services, but your mileage might vary if you want to use it heavily for tasks such as taking class notes.

I wrote and drew on the page below using the Kindle Fire version of Papyrus:

Papyrus app for Kindle Fire HD
My messy handwriting captured by Papyrus


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